How the amygdala affects emotional memory by altering brain network properties

Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2014 Jul:112:2-16. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2014.02.005. Epub 2014 Feb 28.


The amygdala has long been known to play a key role in supporting memory for emotionally arousing experiences. For example, classical fear conditioning depends on neural plasticity within this anterior medial temporal lobe region. Beneficial effects of emotional arousal on memory, however, are not restricted to simple associative learning. Our recollection of emotional experiences often includes rich representations of, e.g., spatiotemporal context, visceral states, and stimulus-response associations. Critically, such memory features are known to bear heavily on regions elsewhere in the brain. These observations led to the modulation account of amygdala function, which postulates that amygdala activation enhances memory consolidation by facilitating neural plasticity and information storage processes in its target regions. Rodent work in past decades has identified the most important brain regions and neurochemical processes involved in these modulatory actions, and neuropsychological and neuroimaging work in humans has produced a large body of convergent data. Importantly, recent methodological developments make it increasingly realistic to monitor neural interactions underlying such modulatory effects as they unfold. For instance, functional connectivity network modeling in humans has demonstrated how information exchanges between the amygdala and specific target regions occur within the context of large-scale neural network interactions. Furthermore, electrophysiological and optogenetic techniques in rodents are beginning to make it possible to quantify and even manipulate such interactions with millisecond precision. In this paper we will discuss that these developments will likely lead to an updated view of the amygdala as a critical nexus within large-scale networks supporting different aspects of memory processing for emotionally arousing experiences.

Keywords: Amygdala; Connectivity; Emotional memory; Memory consolidation; Stress hormones.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / metabolism
  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Nerve Net / physiology*